Christina's Thoughts on Five Places in Sicily

Take a journey through time when you visit these five Sicilian attractions. Medievalists and Italian culture enthusiasts will enjoy an abundance of architectural masterpieces that serve as standing icons of Sicily’s Norman past. The Norman period (c. 1061 – 1194) encompasses a culturally rich point in Sicily’s history during which the island experienced transformative sociopolitical changes. Despite the significant amount of time that has passed since the Norman period, its influence remains relevant to the twenty-first-century traveler and scholar.

1. Catania

Catania is on the east coast of Sicily and is best known for Mt. Etna, one of the two active volcanoes in all of Italy. Though the Cathedral of Catania and the church of Sant’Agata La Vetere might not be the first locations that come to mind for this region, these Sicilian churches are hidden gems worth exploring. Catania’s cathedral will draw the attention of anyone in its presence and will be especially interesting to visitors with a love of Baroque architecture.

2. Messina

One of the more recognizable regions in Sicily, Messina is a harbor city that is closest to mainland Italy. There are many sites in Messina that date to the Norman period, including Santo Stefano di Messina, Santa Maria delle Scale, the Cathedral of Messina, the church of the Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani, the church of San Giacomo and the former monastery of Santa Maria di Roccamadore. The Messina’s cathedral is one of the best-known monuments in the region. This church is distinctive for its ornate bell tower with various sculptural figures and arch detailing, making it a memorable landmark that reminds visitors of the area’s Norman past.

3. Cefalù

The Mediterranean coast is not the only noteworthy part of Cefalù. Located in northern Sicily, Cefalù is home to a number of sites with origins in the Norman period. These include Cefalù’s cathedral, the church of San Biagio, the church of San Giorgio, the Osterio Magno and the Palazzo Maria. Many of these sites offer a wealth of information that offers visitors a glimpse into Sicily’s medieval history, including the duomo’s impressive exterior façade. The Byzantine-influenced mosaics inside are also compelling.

4. Lipari

Lipari is an island located off the northern coast of Sicily. The church of San Bartolomeo di Lipari is a remnant from the island’s Norman past. The church is distinct for its significant stonework and columns depicting different symbols in relief sculpture.

5. Taormina

Perhaps best known for its ancient theater, there is so much more to explore in this idyllic comune. Taormina is home to many monuments from the Norman period including its castle, the church of the Madonna della Rocca, the church of San Nicolo di Bari and the Palazzo Corvaja. The church of Madonna della Rocca is worth exploring beyond its surface. Inside the church, there are various sculptures and artifacts decorating the space that tell about the unique origins of the area’s history.